Tag Archives: Featured

Local advocate selected for World YWCA leadership role

Your gifts support positions like Amara’s as YWCA Prevention Advocate

Names of leaders and links to each of their local YWCA chapters are at the bottom of this post.

Amara Killen

On a blustery Walla Walla morning in late September, I logged into a zoom call with Michelle Tehedy, an 18-year-old YWCA leader from Soweto, South Africa. From the ten members of the 2021 World YWCA Leadership Cohort, we were partnered and asked to discuss the issues and solutions from our communities related to gender-based violence (GBV).

Michelle’s energy was contagious across the screen, and yet, despite her glowing smile, she admitted that she was exhausted after a week facilitating a multi-day GBV training course on for 150 youth in her community. We bonded over the inevitable tension of working in the field of GBV prevention, as stories of suffering and loss parallel those of survival and profound fortitude. We were united by our love of dance and our belief that to  end gender based violence we must create space to hear the voices of youth. 

“Feminism is not just an ideal that should be reached by all people, but more specifically, young men.” — Michelle

Members of the World YWCA 2021 Leadership Cohort brainstormed remotely then assembled this using individual videos taken all over the world.

Over the past three months as a member of the Leadership Cohort, I have been working and learning alongside nine other young women changemakers like Michelle from YWCA chapters in India, Kenya, Palestine, South Africa, South Sudan, Taiwan, and Zimbabwe. We are:

Board Members. Students. Activists. Filmmakers. Poets. Social Workers. Dancers. Organizers. Mothers. Sisters.

Together, across a 16-hour time difference between Walla Walla and Taipei, we share our stories, co-create works of art, and participate in leadership development sessions with powerhouse women leaders including:

  1. Japleen Pasricha, founder of Feminism in India.
  2. Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ted Talk “Fire, aim, ready.”
  3. Cynthia Germanotta, president and co-founder of the Born This Way Foundation.

I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to learn about global issues related to Gender Based Violence, and to showcase the amazing work being done in Walla Walla with the larger YWCA community. In the next few weeks, the Leadership Cohort Members will all be submitting blog posts to the platform World YWCA She Speaks which works to amplify young women’s voices. 

With love,
Amara Killen
Prevention Advocate and Human Rights Activist

Join this global solidarity movement

Please follow up to read our stories, and, if you are a young woman, girl, or female-identified youth, you can submit a blog post yourself to share your voice with the world. We want to hear your story!

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments to me at akillen@ywcaww.org

2021 World YWCA Leadership Cohort‘s online brainstorming session about different forms of gender-based violence that their communities face, which culminated in a video (see above or click here).

Pictured, from top left to bottom right: Maria Dorothy Padua from YWCA Secunderabad, India, Lara Khammash from YWCA Palestine, Michelle Mpho Tehedy from YWCA South Africa, Yvonne Anyango Ogollah from YWCA Kisumu, Kenya, Amara Killen from YWCA Walla Walla, USA, Runyararo Tembani from YWCA Zimbabwe, Latto Catherine Fred Tartisio from YWCA South Sudan, Angela (Zih-Han) Liu from YWCA Taipei, Taiwan, Nsreen Habet from YWCA Palestine, Annie Kumar from YWCA Secunderabad, India

Community generosity a win for everyone

Closeup of gift in female outstretched hands

The Valley Giving Guide (VGG) raised more than $2.5 million in December 2021 for 131 different nonprofits. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin announced the results in an article published January 3, 2021.

“Our community is filled with many, many organizations doing important work. It was an honor to be part of this effort, and we are grateful to the Blue Mountain Community Foundation (BMCF). The website they created, the fees they covered, the match they arranged…they set all of us up for success,” said Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin.

A history of community caring

The giving guide owes a debt to the Sustainable Living Center (SLC) for introducing the Alternative Gift Fair back in 2018, a way to give mindfully and meaningfully during what is often a season of material excess. When BMCF first took on the project in 2020, the “All In Washington” matching funds caused unprecedented excitement around giving. And this year, a promised 10% match kept enthusiasm high.

“I’m so grateful for gifts of all sizes,” Schwerin said. “We received 138 donations, and some of those were from people completely new to our mission. I think the giving guide made that happen. It introduced an amazing group of caring people to causes they might not have been aware of.”  

Why did YWCA participate in the Valley Giving Guide?

In 2021, all our end-of-year fundraising was all directed through BMCF instead of directly to YWCA. Here’s why:

No. 1: The matching pool. Thanks to several corporate and individual donors, gifts grew by about 10 percent!

No. 2: No card fees. BMCF covered card fees for all online* gifts.

No. 3: To spread the love. The guide was full of other essential community partners that also needed support.

Additional LiNC funding is good news for survivors

In addition to meeting the 2021 operating budget, gifts this year will allow us to fully support one of our most transformative programs, Living in New Circumstances (LiNC). The LiNC program was facing a shortfall from changes to the way crime victims’ services are funded, and now the program is in a strong position, “This is great news for survivors working to build independent lives,” said Schwerin.  

Thank you for adopting families for the holidays

Photo is a cozy scene: Red buffalo plaid table cover with winter greenery. At the center is a red mug of hot cocoa topped with a snowman marshmallow.

UPDATE: You stepped up in a big way in November. WOW. Thank you. We found all the donors needed to cover this year’s selected families. If you would still like to help, we accept gift cards any time of year to help with emergency needs, and we share specific needs all through the year on our Facebook page.

We need your help pairing 48 families with donors to help them feel the joy of the season. We still need about 16 more donors or organizations to pitch in to cover families. If we have completed forms by December 6, we can still assemble packages in time. (This year’s early Hanukkah will end then, but that has already been covered.)

Ways to participate
  • You can contact us to adopt a family or part of a family. We’ll share their wish list and you can buy suggested presents to the extent your budget allows.
  • Buy gift cards (Visa, Walmart, other local stores).
  • Bring goodies and small stocking stuffers for gift baskets.
  • Purchase grocery store gift cards for families’ holiday dinners.
  • Bring in new toys, games, craft kits, books, etc.
  • Donate a new or like-new basket for assembling holiday packages.
Gift cards in family gift baskets

Most of the families in shelter will benefit most from gift cards ($75 per person is a suggested budget figure). We will bundle these with a few goodies and fun little stocking stuffers like cozy socks. (Or you can make up a basket yourself.)

Why gift cards? Some moms may never have had the opportunity to buy gifts for their family. Or they may not be in the position this year to buy gifts as they start building independent lives. For them, a gift card is empowering, a gift of dignity.

Gift cards are wonderful anytime of year for Advocates to have on hand, but especially around the holidays, when families arrive in the shelter too late for us to pair them with donors. And we keep various gifts and games ready for when new children arrive. Sometimes we even set aside toy donations from the holidays for this.

Adopt a family with a wish list

Another group of families are trying to stay in their own homes right now and would love to have donors provide gifts or clothes that their children have requested. When many struggling moms receive a Visa or Walmart gift card, it’s hard to use it for a special toy or fashion item when they’re having trouble paying for groceries and heat. For them, the best of both worlds is for donors to provide requested gifts for a holiday celebration, and then also tuck in grocery store or Visa cards for necessities.

Last year’s success

Last year, over 45 women were able to enjoy the 2020 holidays with their families even as they struggled to build new lives. Recovering from the trauma of domestic violence is always difficult, but navigating the path to healing during a pandemic was particularly challenging and the support meant so much. 

We will contact you to find the giving opportunity that best fits your budget and schedule.

You will see a field in the form where you can type in questions; however please feel free to reach out at any time. Email Kirsten at kschober@ywcaww.org or call 509-525-2570 during office hours.

Actions you can take against violence

Women working on laptop computer

It’s YWCA Domestic Violence Action Month, and we’re planning several activities designed to help build community resilience. Here are some concrete actions you can take to make the world safer. And to make our local community safer, consider a YWCA gift today.

Join the Oct. 20 Tweetstorm for VAWA

Set an alarm for 11 am on Wednesday, Oct. 20, to join the VAWA Tweetstorm. Advocates across the U.S. will send tweets urging U.S. Senators to vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. (Thank you to Triage Cancer for compiling the Twitter handles of all US Senators.)

Urge Congress to vote YES on FVPSA

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) is at the heart of our nation’s response to domestic violence services. Congress must continue to ensure that when survivors take the courageous step to reach out for support, funding for lifesaving services and resources are there for them and their children.   

Please join us in urging every Representative to vote “YES” on the FVPSA Improvement bill (H.R. 2119). Enter your name and address, and this form will bring up your House Representative and a template you can use to customize and send an email.

Email your senators about VAWA

H.R. 1620 passed with bipartisan support, and we need every senator working to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act IMMEDIATELY. We cannot allow this critical support to lapse. Email your senators asking them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, even if your senator is already supportive. Knowing how many of their constituents support a piece of legislation matters.

What was in the House VAWA bill that already passed?

Learn myths and facts about H.R. 1620, which already passed the House, and read why Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted against it.

Support indigenous women

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Washington (MMIWW) creates change by collaborating with and educating Tribal, City, County, State, and Federal Government Officials. MMIWW encourages them to pass laws, proclamations, resolutions, and create regulations towards better protections for Indigenous People.

Read her story, then sign the petition to Free Maddesyn George.

Believe a survivor

Here are some ways you can support a friend.

Donors and leaders reflect on pandemic experience, growth

On a warm July evening, members of the Leadership Circle and past YWCA board members gathered to celebrate resilience and optimism at Foundry Vineyards.

“Spirits were high, bright persimmon clothing was abundant, and everyone was simply thrilled to be meeting face to face,“ Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin said.

At the time, the so-called fourth wave of the pandemic had not yet hit Walla Walla County, and to our knowledge, thanks to a high percentage of vaccinated guests, no COVID transmission has resulted from the in-person gathering.

Taking stock

Table conversations centered around questions posed by our 2021 luncheon speaker, author and life coach Molly Davis.

Where do we go from here?

What is ours to do?

Of the many changes the past 16 months have brought to our lives, we discovered how grateful we are for some of those changes. For others…not so much.

The parts of quarantine we enjoyed most? Many found more time for reflective walks. “Walking was my discovery. My peace.”

Gratitude is key

Many found a renewed sense of gratitude to all who helped us get through the pandemic – the vaccination clinic folks, the UPS truck driver, the mail carrier.

Our outside activities moved inside our homes, meaning shared Wi-Fi, meeting spaces…a “tight family time” that was as challenging as it was a gift.

“Living daily with my family was scary and wonderful at the same time – exhausting and energizing,” said one mom.

We also learned to make do with less, to live on less, to enjoy simple pleasures like baking bread and making casseroles. “I’m able to be alone and to be content alone.”

The consensus of the assembled guests was that we really didn’t need all that toilet paper! In fact, someone shared that her new shopping motto is, “If I can’t eat it, I don’t need it!”

For some of our guests, COVID forced new life choices, and nearly everyone reported that the pandemic led to a massive personal change of some kind.

The sisterhood of the comfy pants

Where do we go from here? “We can leave behind intolerance and hate and take our resilience, flexibility, and grace into the future.”

And most agreed on another thing we can happily leave behind: “hard” pants. (Because comfy pants rule.)

Put on your superhero cape to help families in crisis

Girl in cape with the message"Be strong, Be courageous, Believe

You keep the shelter doors open and advocates in place for women and families who need a place of refuge. Now your help is even more important as COVID surges and flu season starts.

This Sept. 23, come to Believe, a virtual party with a purpose. You’ll ensure that those hurt by the ones they love have a place to go and time to grow.

Join us online at 6 pm after picking up party boxes prepared by the Q and fine wine from Foundry Vineyards. Then snag a one-of-a-kind experience and make a heartstrings gift at our silent auction.

Your participation will help women and children at the YWCA find hope, healing, and peace.

___ YES! I believe that a woman and her children going through domestic violence should always find a safe haven at the YWCA.
___YES! I will join you at the 2021 Believe virtual party and auction by signing up
at party.ywcaww.org. (Call 509-525-2570 if you have questions or need help!)

You help us address county childcare crisis

Childcare table with colorful alphabet magnets and board

In nearby Dayton, where county residents have few childcare options, Tabitha Haney, YWCA Director of Childcare, is working with other experts – from state licensors and inspectors to legislators and architects – in the search for solutions.

Perhaps most affected by the childcare crisis are Dayton General Hospital employees, essential workers who – more than ever during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – need reliable, affordable care.

The Early Learning Coalition is exploring funding possibilities, and we look forward to the continued effort to set up quality care options for Columbia County.

Fun Factory: Your gifts kept our van rolling

Ethan Dolph, Ana Rubie, and Caitlyn Rolfe shared summer crafts in parks and neighborhoods throughout the Walla Walla Valley, thanks to your YWCA support.

After COVID crushed our 2020 plans, we were pretty excited about having the YWCA Fun Factory back.

However, this summer was hardly business as usual.

Several neighboring communities were experiencing virus resurgence that kept kids indoors. Here in Walla Walla, parks were emptier than usual with so many kids taking part in the important Walla Walla Public Schools accelerated learning program, Summer Sol.

While the numbers may not have been as high as previous years, it was great to be offering something for kids who might otherwise have slipped through the activity cracks.

Van driver Ethan Dolph said, “We knocked on doors and tacked up dozens of notes around some of our quieter stops. It was a really great feeling when after a couple of weeks of consistently showing up, we’d finally connect with the kids.”

Just when participation seemed to be gaining momentum, the team had a new challenge: Should they be trying to entice children outdoors in record-setting temperatures? Or on days with risky air quality?

They acquired spray bottles and added N95s to their masking options, and they gained special appreciation for the indoor stops.

Next year might not bring cooler temperatures or cleaner air (though we can always hope), but Ana, Caitlyn, and Ethan did come up with some new strategies and schedule adjustments to help 2022 be even more successful.

You help them fly: LiNC is in the bag

Woman carrying LiNC tote bag by the YWCA sign

“It feels like I’m back in school, and that’s a great feeling!” Hannah proclaimed as she settled in for her first session of LiNC class last spring.

In order to follow COVID-19 protocols while continuing in-person classes, several changes have been made to the way the LiNC program operates. One of those changes, thanks to our gracious donors, is a personal tote bag for each student containing all necessary supplies and curriculum for class.

If you take a peek inside one of these bags, you’ll find an orange binder full of empowering curriculum, markers, colored pencils, a pen, highlighter, sharpie, glue, sticky notes, index cards, a stress ball, and a reusable YWCA water bottle.

Keeping track of that tote bag is a lesson in responsibility for many of the ladies who join our class. No one has lost a tote yet!

On the following Thursday, Hannah burst into class. “I have exciting news!” she said. “You won’t believe what I did yesterday — I signed up for classes at the community college!”

We cheered her achievement and the bravery it took to set her education in motion. I smiled at how one simple tote bag could ignite a dream.

LiNC, or Living in New Circumstances, is a life skills program designed for domestic violence survivors. Beki Buell, LiNC Director, shared this update.

Thanks for attending the 2021 Virtual YWCA Luncheon

Standing at the Threshold:
Finding Our Way Forward Together

If you couldn’t attend the luncheon and would like to see what you missed, the recording is below. Even if you already gave, you’re invited to click on “make a gift” to view our exciting progress toward meeting this year’s luncheon goal. The goal is based on where our fundraising needs to be by the end of May to continue the staffing and activities you made possible in 2020 – maybe more, since we won’t have a full-blown pandemic making activities more difficult!

0:00 Welcome from President Carol

3:20 Anne-Marie thanks YWCA supporter/sponsors

4:35 Liza introduces the 2020 and 2021 Leaders of Distinction

10:45 Carol introduces three short videos about what you make possible here

22:15 Anne-Marie shares a Mission Moment, the “why” behind the YW

25:40 Jim pulls your Heartstrings (click the “make a gift” button above to see how much closer we are to reaching the spring fundraising goal than we were while he was speaking)

28:38 Anne-Marie introduces Molly